Charlie Sheen spent the first few months after being fired from “Two and a Half Men” trying to win the PR battle through a series of bizarre interviews, tweets and stage shows filled with Sheen-y buzzwords about “winning,” “goddesses,” and “tiger blood.” The Sheen who became the main attraction at last night’s combined FOX/FX press tour party was still doing image rehab, but coming from a much calmer, more magnanimous place.
Surrounded by reporters, Sheen was in his element: happy and laid-back and entirely on message. Asked at one point what makes him different from the guy getting into all that trouble a year ago, Sheen laughed and said, “Well, I’m not crazy anymore! That was an episode.”
Sheen talked to reporters side-by-side with sitcom veteran Bruce Helford, who will executive produce his new “Anger Management” sitcom for FX. The series borrows the title and nothing else from the Jack Nicholson/Adam Sandler film, and will star Sheen as an anger management counselor with an ex-wife – who is “not a bummer,” Sheen clarified – a 13-year-old daughter, and a therapist of his own. Those roles and more have yet to be cast, as Helford and his staff only have one script done. The show is being produced on the same business model as Tyler Perry’s TBS sitcoms: 10 episodes will be produced in six weeks, and if the episodes meeting a certain ratings threshold, an order for an addition 90 episodes is automatically triggered.
Asked why he would want to return to television so soon after the “Men” experience ended in flames, Sheen said, “I just didn’t want that to be my television legacy. I wanted to do something that ended better – will end better. Nothing against those guys. They know what they did, I know what I did, and we all moved on. So I’m happy about that.”
He did compliment the work of replacement Ashton Kutcher and sounded amused by the ultimate fate of Charlie Harper.
“I think (Kutcher)’s doing a great job,” he said. “It’s a different show. I thought the moment of the urn, with the smoke of my body and his reveal at the window, was one of the great television moments of all time.”
While he was for the most part gracious about his previous job, Sheen made sure to slip in some not-so-subtle comments about why he’ll be much happier in the new one.
“I just wanted to do a show and play a character that dealt with more mature themes – dealt with stuff that actually exists in the real world,” he said at one point. “A lot of the time on the other show, I felt we were servicing the comedy and not allowing it to come out of character situations.”
And because he’s an active producer on this show – was involved with the project before Helford, in fact – “It’s exciting. I’ve been doing this 30 years, and it’s nice to finally be in a situation where the people I’m working with are excited about my input. That wasn’t the case for a long time. But I know my strengths and my weaknesses. So I’ll always defer to this gentleman (Helford) in whether something is working or it ain’t.”
Helford has worked with both difficult stars in the past (most notably Roseanne) and easy ones (Drew Carey), and before Sheen arrived at the party, Helford said, “Charlie’s been an angel so far” and said he had no concerns about going to work with him.
Helford also had one period in his career where he had four different sitcoms on the air at once, making him responsible for producing 100 episodes in a single season, which he said makes him a good choice to work under the 10/90 deal. And Sheen didn’t seem concerned by having to produce and act in episodes at a vastly faster pace than he ever worked on “Men” or “Spin City.”
“There was so much wasted time in that model,” he said, “that we’re going to present something that I think is a much rounder wheel, you know?”
Asked again about the difference between his erratic persona in the immediate post-“Men” period versus the quieter guy he’s been lately, Sheen said, “I don’t really plan that stuff. Let’s just say I have a mellower plan for this.”
Sheen was smiling and charming for most of the scrum, until one reporter brought up the drug and alcohol issues that got him fired from “Men.”
He scowled and asked, “What does that have to do with ‘Anger Management’?”
The reporter admitted it had nothing to do with it.
“There you go,” Sheen said confidently. “I’m doing good now.”
The reporter pressed on again about what happened last year, and Sheen said, “I kind of just said I’m not answering that question. Not to be rude, but there’s a time and a place.”
Then the conversation returned to “Anger Management,” and the smile returned.
Alan Sepinwall may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org